Evangeline Witherspoon removes one of the lipsticks from the plastic dollar store bag and uses her fingernail to work off the wrapping. She twists the base, watches the lipstick emerge, pretty and unblemished and new, a perfect forty-five degree angle of pure color. She stretches out her lower lip with her bottom teeth and rubs the lipstick back and forth before pressing her lips together. She studies herself intently in the bathroom mirror. Too pink, she decides, wiping off the lipstick with her lavender-scented handkerchief. She takes another from the bag and repeats the process. Too orange. Another. Taupe.
“What are you doing, Mother?” Her daughter Edna limps into the bathroom and squints at her “Why are your lips two different colors?”
Evangeline glances at herself in the mirror. Her top lip is orange. Her bottom lip taupe. She sighs. Edna, she is sure, is convinced that Evangeline is slipping. This lipstick incident won’t help. Evangeline wipes her lips clean.
After Edna broke her hip in that car accident a few months back, Evangeline asked her daughter to move in with her. It would be neat, she’d thought, to care for her daughter once again. She envisioned cooking up great kettles of chicken noodle soup. Staying up late in pajamas watching movies on that webby thing that Al Gore invented before he went all environmental. Talking over coffee and buttery croissants.
Evangeline had thought they’d go back to the way things were years and years ago.She hadn’t expected Edna to turn into a vegan. Hadn’t expected Edna to fall in love with Dirk Dimkowitz across the street. She hadn’t expected Edna to quit her job and make this move a thing of permanence.
“How is your hip feeling today, honey?”
“Getting better every day.” She smiles. “Dirk’s helping me with my therapy now.”
Evangeline nods. She was supposed to be the one helping her daughter. Not Dirk. “I’m glad you found someone. After Brian died…Well, I was just so worried about you. Out there in California all by yourself, with nobody to take care of you.”
“You sweet on someone, Mom?”
“Maybe.” Evangeline wipes her lips again and tries the fourth tube. Red. She considers. Bright, but not garish.
“I like that one.” Edna shuts the lid on toilet, and with her cane, lowers herself on the fuzzy pink seat. “So who is he?”
“Oh, nobody.” Evangeline can feel herself blush. Living with Edna wasn’t what Evangeline had expected. Edna going out at all hours of the day: Dinners, shopping, theatre trips and museum visits. Evangeline is..Well, truth be told, Evangeline is jealous of her daughter.
“Phillip Feizer?” Edna raises her eyebrows.
“That old prune face?” Evangeline says, then glances at her reflection. She presses her fingertips against the mirror, traces the wrinkles in the glass. When did she get so old? “Not Phillip.”
She applies a bit of blusher to her cheeks. Just a touch, mind you. Not like the way Deidre Jacoby puts it on. The woman looks as if she suffers from a permanent and incurable case of Fifth Disease. Eye shadow? No. She decides. She’s grown beyond eye shadow.
“No. Not Henry,” Evangeline says, refusing to pronounce his name the French way. Every since Henry Smith took that genealogy class and discovered he was one-sixteenth French, he’s insisted upon the new pronunciation. “Man enrolled in a French conversation class at the community college.”
“Word is he’s failing it,” Edna says, laughing. “But he’s doing quite well in the culinary class. Might make you a nice dinner.” She hoists herself back up and stands behind her mother; begins pulling bobby pins from Evangeline’s hair. It falls around her shoulders, long and white.
“I look like a witch.”
“You look beautiful.” Edna picks up the brush from the counter and begins running it through Evangeline’s hair. “I wish I’d inherited this.”
Evangeline sighs and closes her eyes. “I remember when you used to style my hair. We’d sit for hours on the couch listening to the radio after I got dinner started. When you finished, you’d hold up the mirror and it was all I could do not to laugh.” She giggles. “Little plastic curlers hanging from one piece of hair. My bangs teased straight up. Fifteen plastic butterfly barrettes all over my head. You made me leave it in until you father got home.” She opens her eyes and sees Edna has tears in her eyes. “What’s wrong?”
“I always wanted it to be like this, Mom. You and me.” She places a hand on Evangeline’s shoulder. “But after I started high school…”
Evangeline smiles. “People must grow apart before they can grow together.”
“I just want to start new. Go back to the beginning.”
Evangeline shakes her head. “Relationships aren’t like lipsticks, Edna.”
Her daughter frowns. “What do you mean?”
“You can’t peel back the cover and unwrap them anew. And you can’t expect perfection. You just pick up in the middle and move forward as best you can.”
Edna nods and dabs at her eyes. “So who is it?”
“Well, if you must know, it’s Frank DiFazio.”
“Frank is not a doofus, Edna, any more than your man friend Dirk is.”
Edna sets the brush on the counter. “What’s wrong with Dirk?”
“What’s wrong with Frank?” Their eyes meet in the mirror. They hold each other’s gaze for a moment before Edna looks away. “You always say that Frank is …overdoingthings.”
“Well he is. But I’m willing to look past all that.”
“I’m lonely, Edna. Same as you were until you met up with Dirk again.”
“Just because a person gets old doesn’t mean they’re no longer interested in life. In a relationship with somebody.”
Edna blushes. “But Frank…”
“Frank isn’t everything I wanted in a man. And he does do things that embarrass me sometimes.”
“He’s so loud, Mom.”
“That he is. But sometimes you have to decide to stop being so hard everyone and take what the world has to offer.”
Edna smiles. “You like Dirk, Mom?”
Evangeline nods. “I think he’s a fine man.”
“Thanks, Mom.” Edna picks up the brush and resumes styling her mother’s hair.
For the Scriptic.org prompt exchange this week, Michael at http://MichaelWebb.us gave me this prompt: “I am not at all concerned with appearing to be consistent. In my search after Truth I have discarded many ideas and learnt many new things.” –Mahatma Gandhi
I gave Diane at http://silverliningwriting.com this prompt: Simmer for four hours. Perhaps longer.